The editor of a left-wing Turkish Cypriot newspaper on Monday accused Turkey’s president of instructing supporters to launch a violent attack against his publication’s offices over criticism for Ankara's military offensive into Syria.
Sener Levent said his newspaper Afrika won’t be silenced in calling out Turkey’s policies either in the breakaway north of ethnically-split Cyprus or elsewhere.
Dozens of Turkish flag-waving protesters smashed windowpanes and hurled stones, eggs and other items at Afrika’s first floor offices in the Turkish Cypriot half of the divided capital, Nicosia, said Levent’s assistant, Cinel Husseyin. She said a few tried to storm the offices and accused police of not doing enough to hold protesters back.
Levent said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged supporters to "answer" Afrika newspaper for suggesting that Turkey’s military offensive into Syria against an enclave controlled by a US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia was a bid to occupy that country’s territory.
A headline in Afrika Sunday edition likened Turkey’s action to its military occupation of Cyprus’s north, where Turkey has kept 35,000 troops since 1974 when it invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
"Erdogan sent the demonstrators. It was a threat made against us," Levent told AP through Husseyin, who acted as an interpreter. "We will continue telling the truth and the newspaper will circulate tomorrow."
Erdogan didn’t immediately address the accusations made by Levent.
According to the Turkish presidency’s website, Erdogan had earlier called Afrika "a cheap and nasty newspaper" that ran an "impertinent" headline and invited Turkish Cypriots to "give the necessary response to this."
Cyprus Journalists’ Union condemned the attack, saying in a statement that journalists aren’t "servants to power no matter how powerful or absolute that power is." [AP]